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Surrogate son Federer loses, but Wimbledon's "Hill" is happy

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - It was hard at first to spot Novak Djokovic fans on Wimbledon's fabled "Hill" where thousands gather to watch the tennis on a huge screen, but as the Serb marched towards victory over crowd favorite Roger Federer they started cheering louder.

With 2013 Wimbledon men's champion Andy Murray knocked out last week, most British fans seemed to have switched allegiance to surrogate son Federer.

The chant "Ro-ger, Ro-ger" rippled occasionally through the crowd on "the Hill" - which essentially consists of pretty much everyone at Wimbledon who cannot get into Center Court.

At the end, though, there were plenty of whoops of joy for Djokovic as well as applause for a match well played in a nearly four-hour-long contest which for people on "the Hill" was tennis combined with an all-day picnic and a booze-up in the sun.

"I was gunning for him (Djokovic) all the way," said Susie Liddell, a nurse from the southern English city of Winchester, who had come with friends and a spread of food and drinks from a supermarket.

"They all wanted Federer, but I was in the know," Liddell said, adding that watching the match on "the Hill" was the next best thing to being on Center Court where it was played.

"Just look at the atmosphere, look at the people, look at the spirit, the spirit of the game, you know? Unless you're on Center Court, get here," she said.

The final day of the 13-day grand slam event is as much an occasion for partying, picnicking and celebrity spotting as it is for watching the main action on Center Court.

The weather was mild and sunny and the All England Club said attendance had reached capacity of roughly 29,000 shortly after 1 p.m.

'STRAWBERRY THEME'

Among those attending were English film stars Kate Winslet and Orlando Bloom, South African golf great Gary Player, Australian actor Hugh Jackman and English director Guy Ritchie.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Kate, who saw Murray go down to defeat last Wednesday from the Royal Box, were back again for the men's final while former England soccer captain David Beckham and his wife Victoria also attended.

All of them had choice seats on Centre Court, but for fans on "the Hill", picnicking and watching on the big screen was the next best thing to being courtside.

"It was brilliant, the atmosphere was great, the weather was good and we had a good view," said Niamh McCafferty, 25, from Derry, Northern Ireland, who works as a mortgage adviser in London.

She and four friends had taken the theme of the favorite dish at Wimbledon - strawberries and cream - to the absolute limit.

"We had strawberries and cream, strawberry-and-cream chocolates, Champagne with strawberries, we had strawberry lip balm and we had strawberry-flavored water," she said.

"It was a strawberry theme."

Throughout the two-week long event, rain or shine, win or lose for Murray, the mood at Wimbledon and in associated entertainment venues, has seemed light-hearted and upbeat.

"It's civilized compared to other sports events," said Petros Chrysanthou, 41, a hair-dresser from London.

"There's toilet paper in the toilets and you can bring in a bottle of wine each."

(Editing by Rex Gowar)

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